Journal cover Journal topic
Geoscience Communication An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
Journal topic
Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/gc-2020-33
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/gc-2020-33
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  25 Aug 2020

25 Aug 2020

Review status
This preprint is currently under review for the journal GC.

Fracking bad language: Hydraulic fracturing and earthquake risks

Jennifer J. Roberts1, Clare E. Bond2, and Zoe K. Shipton1 Jennifer J. Roberts et al.
  • 1Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, James Weir Building, 75 Montrose St, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, G1 1XJ, Scotland, UK
  • 2School of Geosciences, Department of Geology and Petroleum Geology, Meston Building, Aberdeen University, Aberdeen, AB24 3UE, Scotland, UK

Abstract. Hydraulic fracturing, fracking, is a well stimulation technique used to enhance permeability to aid geological resource management, including the extraction of shale gas. The process of hydraulic fracturing can induce seismicity and the risk of seismicity is a topic of widespread interest and is often reported to be an issue of public concern regarding hydraulic fracturing. This is particularly the case in the UK, where seismicity induced by hydraulic fracturing has halted shale gas operations, and triggered moratoria. However, there seems a disconnect between the level of risk and concern around seismicity caused by shale gas operations as perceived by publics and that reported by expert groups (from industry, policy, and academia), which could manifest in the terminology used to describe the seismic events (tremors, earthquakes, micro-earthquakes). In this paper, we examine the conclusions on induced seismicity and hydraulic fracturing from expert-led public facing reports on shale gas published between 2012 and 2018 and the terminology used in these reports. We compare these to results from studies conducted in the same time period that explore public views on hydraulic fracturing and seismicity. Further, we surveyed participants at professional and public events on shale gas held throughout 2014 to elicit whether they associate shale gas with earthquakes. We use the same question that was used in a series of surveys of the UK publics in the period 2012–2016, but we asked our participants to provide the reasoning for the answer they gave. By examining the rationale provided for their answers we find that an apparent polarisation of views amongst experts is an artefact and in fact responses are confounded by ambiguity of language around earthquake risk, magnitude, and scale. We find that different terms are used to describe earthquakes, often in an attempt to express the magnitude, shaking, or risk presented by the earthquake, but that these terms are poorly defined and ambiguous and do not translate into everyday language usage. Such “fracking bad language” has led to challenges in the perception and communication of risks around earthquakes and hydraulic fracturing, and leaves language susceptible to emotional loading and misinterpretation. We call for multi-method approaches to understand perceived risks around geoenergy resources, and suggest that adopting a shared language framework to describe earthquakes would alleviate miscommunication and misperceptions. This work is relevant for a range of applications where risks are challenging to conceptualise and poorly constrained; particularly those of public interest where language inconsistency can exacerbate communication challenges and can have widespread consequence.

Jennifer J. Roberts et al.

Interactive discussion

Status: open (until 26 Oct 2020)
Status: open (until 26 Oct 2020)
AC: Author comment | RC: Referee comment | SC: Short comment | EC: Editor comment
[Subscribe to comment alert] Printer-friendly Version - Printer-friendly version Supplement - Supplement

Jennifer J. Roberts et al.

Jennifer J. Roberts et al.

Viewed

Total article views: 310 (including HTML, PDF, and XML)
HTML PDF XML Total BibTeX EndNote
238 68 4 310 2 3
  • HTML: 238
  • PDF: 68
  • XML: 4
  • Total: 310
  • BibTeX: 2
  • EndNote: 3
Views and downloads (calculated since 25 Aug 2020)
Cumulative views and downloads (calculated since 25 Aug 2020)

Viewed (geographical distribution)

Total article views: 144 (including HTML, PDF, and XML) Thereof 142 with geography defined and 2 with unknown origin.
Country # Views %
  • 1
1
 
 
 
 

Cited

Saved

No saved metrics found.

Discussed

No discussed metrics found.
Latest update: 25 Sep 2020
Publications Copernicus
Download
Short summary
Seismicity caused by hydraulic fracturing (fracking) has triggered moratoria and is a topic of public interest. In this paper we show that ambiguity and inconsistency of language around magnitude and scale challenges current understanding of perceived risk of induced seismicity, and risk communication. We call for multi-method approaches to understand perceived risks around geoenergy resources, and suggest to adopted a shared language framework to describe seismic events.
Seismicity caused by hydraulic fracturing (fracking) has triggered moratoria and is a topic of...
Citation
Altmetrics